Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chronicle of a Death Foretold (III).

While the barbarians gather at the gates of Canberra, the small parties and independents are positioning themselves for the all too predictable changes in the political landscape, including a Coalition-controlled Senate, informs us Lenore Taylor, SMH's chief political correspondent.

(Just for fun, you might want to read the previous installment in this series)

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon [A]
One of those getting ready to survive Labor's upcoming shellacking appears to be independent senator Nick Xenophon, "who lost his balance of power position in mid-2011, is clearly preparing for the prospect that he will be re-elected and get it back again".

As it happens, the intrepid senator for South Australia, who has been generously featured in the media recently for his unexpected adventures in Malaysia (of all places!), "is also leading the way on changes many Coalition members want to make to industrial relations laws, introducing another private member's bill to exempt small businesses in the restaurant, catering and retail sectors with fewer than 20 full-time employees from paying penalty rates at weekends".

Don't believe Taylor? Neither did I, at first, until I found this, straight from the horse's mouth (August 14, 2012):
"Under Senator Xenophon's Fair Work Amendment (Small Business - Penalty Rates Exemption) Bill 2012, penalty rates would still be payable, but only where an employee has worked more than 38 hours in a seven day period or worked more than 10 hours each day. This exemption would only apply to businesses which employ fewer than 20 full time equivalent employees". Update: Senate Hansard transcript for August 16, 2012.
According to ACTU the changes Xenophon proposes mean "over 500,000 workers risk losing their penalty rates". As most workers employed by food outlets and in retail are already part-timers, based on a 6 hour shift:
  • A fast food worker could lose over $26 on Saturdays and $53 on Sundays.
  • A retail worker could lose over $26 on Saturdays. On Sundays, a permanent retail worker (full-time or part-time) could lose $105, and a casual $79.
  • A hospitality worker who is permanent (full time or part-time) could lose over $25 on Saturdays and $74 on Sundays. A casual hospitality worker could lose $50 on Sundays.

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With or without reason, restaurant owners and retailers have long been complaining that operating costs are putting them out of business. Xenophon's bill could address reducing commercial leases, red tape, utilities, suppliers, financing and interests payments, the exchange rate, online shopping, all subjects small businesses complain endlessly.

This from a Council of Small Business of Australia press release:
"COSBOA notes that the high penalty rates are also affecting the health of business owners in large shopping centres who are working six and seven days a week due to the landlord forcing them to open and the high penalty rates and low sales making employing other people prohibitive". (Emphasis added)
So, there you have it, the solution to a problem created by landlords is to squeeze their workers.

Xenophon does not address any of this. Why not? Don't ask me, ask him.

The idea is to externalize these "small business" people's costs, so that workers bear them. And this is already the situation with restaurant workers, according to a recent Fairfax Media investigation on restaurants and diners:

Underclass of restaurant employees in Sydney grossly underpaid - Sarah Whyte and Clay Lucas - January 18, 2013
Restaurants' dirty secret revealed - Sarah Whyte, Clay Lucas - January 26, 2013
Wages of sin - January 26, 2013
Hard to swallow: restaurant staff tips taken by owners, says union - Sarah Whyte, Clay Lucas - January 29, 2013
Wages rot begins at the top - Sarah Whyte, Clay Lucas - January 27, 2013

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Make no mistake, after these "long-suffering" heroes get their free lunch at their workers' expense, every other "long suffering" hero will cry for their own, and Xenophon, being so understanding, will be happy to indulge. Don't miss it: coming soon to a paycheck near you.

Once you've been reduced to the most abject misery, you know who you owe that to.

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The Unions Australia website is designed to facilitate the process of joining a union.

Image Credits:
[A] "Independent Senator Nick Xenophon suggests if the facts change, it is fine to change your mind". File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Wikipedia. Author: Di Bell. My use of the file does not in any way suggests its author endorses me or my use of the work.

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